Between a Polar Vortex and a Stretch of Snowstorms

Made some chicken and noodles in the crock pot Saturday, and it was not bad. That was Saturday night, and Sunday was all about potato pancakes and Superbowl dip and bacon. Yes. Bacon. Fried up two pounds of bacon and went to bed smelling bacon and the house still smells like bacon, and maybe I do, too. But you know what? I don’t mind a bit. For some odd reason, the smell of bacon is only a good thing, and if you don’t agree I sure don’t blame you. Mr. S is not such a fan of the smell of bacon, at least not on his clothes, but when I cook up some venison in the crock pot, he goes all wild. “LOVE THAT SMELL!” he hollers from the living room. “Mmm, mmm good! WHEN’S DINNER?”

I don’t know. I just don’t smell what he’s smelling. Somehow the smell of venison doesn’t cut it for me, and the smell of bacon doesn’t do it for him, and there’s another example of the glory of how we’re all our own selves and different from each other and who would have it any other way? I think it has a lot to do with where we come from, how we grew up, what we ate and who did the cookin’. It was my father who was, is and always will be a fan of side pork, metwurst, kielbasa and pork. There was always a roast cooking or chops frying, and he made this thing he called “breads” where he deep fried wads of bread dough ‘til they were brown all over, split ‘em open on a plate, and drizzled bacon fat and real maple syrup over and my brothers and I devoured those breads as fast as he could make ‘em.

It’s the time of year, I think, when kitchen smells carry us away. We can’t go outside for fear of our limbs freezing off and we spent a chunk of our vacation money on medical bills and a new furnace so our vacation won’t happen ‘til summer. Not a complaint, mind you, but cabin fever has a way of winding itself around our moods and pretty soon we’ve got to put our energy into something creative and life-giving or we might very well holler it out on each other. So, on Saturday afternoon, Mr. S headed to his work room to carve wood into spoons and bowls and odd fishing lures to sell at summer craft fairs, and I stitched words into flour sack towels and dusted and sorted through books and clothing in an attempt to lighten the load.

But, inevitably, as the day grew dark, Mr. S got out his guitar, and I opened my recipe box. Lo and behold, I was carried back in time to a table set for a family of more than two, and all my favorite comfort foods in haphazard array on the kitchen island: blueberry muffins with a dash of nutmeg; cream corn casserole; homemade macaroni and cheese with a sprinkling of crispy bacon; pork roast infused with slivers of garlic; cream cheese coffeecake and egg bake and pie. Apple pie, with streusel. And cherry pie, my dad’s favorite. And the banana cream pie my mom makes better than anyone, ever. Blueberry pie, my secret favorite. Homemade salty pickles and green bean casserole and chow mein hotdish and cheesy potatoes and, oh my, warm rice pudding.

Sigh. I pulled out a recipe for just the right thing. Crock pot chicken and noodles, complete with a stick of butter and a couple of cans of cream soup. Perfect thing for a night between a polar vortex and a stretch of snowstorms. Just the thing for that warm-and-cozy-after-dinner-feeling. Missing only bacon, which I’d make the next day, and blueberry pie, which I’ll make next weekend, along with a batch of breads. For the old days. And these cold days. And us.

Here it is. The recipe for Crock Pot Chicken and Noodles, which – paired with a nice white wine – rendered Mr. S motionless in his recliner sometime after nine on Saturday night, and left me singin’ as I washed up the dishes and listened to the radio while the wind howled ‘round the eaves in the cold clear night.

Crock Pot Chicken and Noodles
1 24 oz package frozen egg noodles (Reames!)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
½ cup butter, cut into pieces
1 32 oz carton chicken broth
1 tsp chicken bouillon
6 small or 4 large chicken breasts, skinless
1 pkg frozen peas and carrots
Parsley, salt, pepper

Salt and pepper chicken and put in bottom of crock pot. Mix soups and pour over chicken. Cut butter and place evenly over soup. Place lid on and cook 6 hours on low, 4 hours on high. Remove chicken and shred, and throw back into the crock pot with the noodles and veggies. Cook another 2 hours, stirring now and then. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Stir and serve. Enjoy!